I first became passionate about body clocks and circadian biology when I was an undergraduate at University of Surrey, studying Biochemistry & Pharmacology. For 3 years I had been studying at length the effects of drugs and how they interact with the body, learning all the tiny details about their composition and the intricate ways they act on other molecules (let alone something as large as an organ).
Then, in my final year I was introduced to a simple and yet profound concept: the time of day a drug is taken matters.
During 24 hours our body temperature, blood pressure, alertness, metabolism, and many other bodily functions, changes from the very high to the very low. For example, our livers can tolerate alcohol better in the evening than the morning.
What?! So here we are trialling many drugs, testing them on patients that come into clinics during the day between 9-5. Trial results might deem a drug completely useless or harmful, but if it was given at night it might be the next cure for cancer!
The really great thing about timing drug delivery is that a drug will usually be most effective at a time that it will produce least side effects. Wouldn’t it be great if all drugs tested were also analysed for the effect of time of day on their actions.
Circadian biology also makes sense. Our bodies need to be able to respond differently at different times of day, to anticipate changes in our environment. Ideally, we are sleepy at night time, alert during the day, and hungry at meal times.
We are increasingly becoming aware of the effect of disrupting our body clocks such as the effects of night shift working, jet lag, and general living in a 24 hour society. There is still a lot to learn and be investigated by scientists.
So after finishing my undergraduate studies, I started a PhD at UCL to study and learn more about body clocks. I thought I would start this blog to share my growing knowledge (or increasing ignorance) about the body clock field. We all notice when we have sleepless nights, but do we appreciate why we have sleepless days?
The 24 hour clock at the Greenwich Observatory, London